B2B sales: What will the 'rep of the future' look like?

by Marty Nicholas

Today’s B2B sales environment is changing and it’s vital for organisations to adapt sales to stay relevant to evolving customer expectations. While the environmental shifts driving this are increasingly apparent, understanding what the ‘rep of the future’ will look like is far less clear for many organisations. This lack of clarity means preparing salespeople for the future is a key challenge for today’s sales leaders.

Let’s start with a brief recap of why the landscape of B2B selling is no longer the same.

Conversations that customers once had with salespeople are increasingly happening online. In addition, these once traditionally sales-driven conversations are taking place across both sales and marketing channels. Given the plethora of information available digitally, we’re also facing a much savvier buyer than before. In order to deal with this new buyer, sales must be more strategic and engage in interactions that go ‘beyond the brochure’. Cost pressures have also created an inherent need for organisations to ‘do more with less’. Overall, it’s clear that sales must adapt to be more customer-centric, more closely integrated with other functions, and more technology-enabled to keep pace with today’s buyer.

Amplifying the challenges of this new environment is the fact that there is fear and uncertainty in many sales teams around what a digital future means for them. With marketing becoming more prominent, growing investment in digital platforms, and the implementation of new tools – such as marketing automation – the concern of the ‘reverse takeover’ from marketing replacing sales roles is a real concern in many organisations. As a result, preparing sales for this environment is a defining and imminent challenge in the life of the sales leader and wider business leadership teams.

What Will the ‘Rep of the Future’ Look Like?

We believe that as long as they’re willing to evolve, the future is secure and exceptionally bright for salespeople, particularly in complex sales environments. They’ll unquestionably hold a vital place in B2B selling, but critically, they must be willing to evolve, and fast. We’re of the view that the ‘rep of the future’ will be much more empowered and enabled, with technology eradicating many low-value admin tasks and providing better understanding into customer thoughts and actions. More time will be spent on valuable customer problem-solving, allowing tomorrow’s salesperson to be more innovative, effective and productive.

The infographic below summarises the key shifts that are needed for us to support our salespeople and prepare them for a digital future:

Holistic Thinking and Education Are Key

In their response to the imperative to adapt, we often see organisations embark on isolated digital experiments in their sales teams, such as social selling. While initiatives like this have merit and can form a part of the solution, too many organisations ‘kick the can down the road’ and fall short of fundamentally transforming their sales model. To become genuinely future-fit and adapt sales for today’s buyer, DNA-level changes are required, which span people, process and technology.

The other key issue is that of sales education. In many businesses, entire digital transformations are taking place with marketing at the forefront and insufficient consideration as to how sales will be incorporated. If sales aren’t engaged in this process, then not only will even the best-planned marketing transformation projects fail – concerns will be amplified in sales around their future, making the transformation far more difficult. Educating sales on the fact that their future is very bright is essential. The above model is a good blueprint to share with salespeople to educate them around what the future will look like and build buy-in for transformation.

Of course, the big challenge is in stitching all this together and actually putting it on the ground. Stay tuned for future posts, where we’ll talk about the most high-value and practical initiatives which will help you accelerate sales transformation for the digital age.